At our weekly Brewing on Belief gathering, we like to discuss big topics that we truly can’t establish a clean, clear answer as these topics have been analyzed and reanalyzed for centuries. One topic that is becoming a fashionable discussion piece again is the concept of Hell. Most notably with the recent release of Rob Bell’s Love Wins (no recommendation, have yet to read), the discussion of who gets into Hell, what Hell might look like, and what its purpose is, has sparked some good debate. Last night, we tried to tackle this topic ourselves, and our conversation was (as usual) very interesting, challenging, and thought-provoking.
In the vein of Holy Week and the impending resurrection of Jesus on Easter, we were fascinated by the concept of Hell in relation to whether or not Jesus has put an end to Hell with His ultimate sacrifice. For many of us, Hell does not fit with our concept of a just and loving God. One who “…so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16) would not in turn send his creations to a place of eternal pain and damnation. Jesus even asks God to forgive those in the act of killing his Son, and if God can forgive even those people, then our transgressions do not seem as damning in the long run.
Even when considering those in our society that have committed the ultimate sins against a fellow human being, it is easy to assume they would, or even should, suffer for eternity. However, it is important to factor in outside forces that may have altered a person, turning them into something that is not a fully-functioning healthy individual, and in turn to consider the extreme sadness that God must have when pieces of his creation fall into a state of disrepair.
For me, it is clear that a truly loving God would not forsake these people, but would rather bring them to an eternal home where they can be made full once more. Healing, even for the most despicable of our earthly brethren, cannot be outside the realm of God’s power. I believe that God’s extreme sadness is his driving force to bring all into Heaven so that the broken may understand what it is to be a full member of the Heavenly Kingdom. And, if this is the case, then Hell is no longer a necessary component of afterlife fear.
In the nature of Brewing on Belief, I put it to you. What do you make of Hell? What does it look like? Who gets in?